The art world will congregate around photography this weekend. The focus? Two art fairs in Hollywood. Paris Photo Los Angeles, the U.S. edition of the long-running French fair now in its third year in L.A., will take over the Paramount Pictures back lot; the artist-focused Photo Independent, which kicked off last year, will set up shop at Raleigh Studios across the street.
Paris Photo has a new director, Florence Bourgeois, and a new artistic director, Christoph Wiesner. They are putting their stamp on an event that showcases historical and contemporary work. Photo Independent, founded by Fabrik Media’s Chris Davies, is made up mainly of non-gallery-represented artists looking for new audiences, so it’s fertile ground for discovery.
We caught up with the directors of both fairs to discuss what’s in store. Below you'll see a Q&A with Davies about Photo Independent, but first a conversation with Paris Photo L.A.’s Bourgeois and Wiesner:
As new leadership for Paris Photo, what’s your vision for the L.A. fair?
Bourgeois: We’ll maintain the ideals and high quality for which this fair is renowned and develop a strong position for the fair in the emerging West Coast art market. For our first year at the helm, and in reaction to market trends, we have focused on building on our partnerships and attracting cutting-edge young galleries fostering strong new talent. Paris Photo Los Angeles will feature over 30 solo shows dedicated to the work of one standout artist and highlight emerging galleries.
Why hold a U.S. edition of Paris Photo in L.A.? Is the location at Paramount Studios making a connection between film and still photography?
Bourgeois: Los Angeles is today one of the world's richest artistic hubs, attracting more and more large galleries. A fair was the logical next step for a city with such a burgeoning art scene with strong figures in the arts, as well as ties to both the Asian and South American art markets.
Wiesner: Hollywood also has a rich artistic heritage and long history of image-based art and specifically moving image. This is why our placement at Paramount Pictures studios fits so well.
What are some of the standout programming elements this year?
Wiesner: Collectors and aspiring collectors will have the privilege of perusing gallery offerings from over 17 countries worldwide. We are thrilled to present new series, never-before-seen vintage works, photographs by major artists not presented in decades, new large formats and previously not exhibited historic photographs. Paris Photo will also celebrate young talent by recognizing the photographic work of one up-and-coming artist enrolled in a California art school MFA program with the 2015 Introducing! award.
After the success of last year's “Unedited!” exhibition featuring the archives of the LAPD, we return with “California Unedited!” unveiling an amazing collection of portraits from the archives of R.J. Arnold providing a rare glimpse of California's diverse local communities at the turn of the century. We also present a renewed “Sound and Vision” program featuring conversations with some of today's leading artists and curators with selected screenings of participating artists' video work. Over 100 artists also will be on location to autograph their published works.
You’ll be exhibiting work from 17 countries. Are there any new countries this year?
Wiesner: This year we are proud to welcome for the first time in Los Angeles exhibitors from Australia, Belgium, Iran and Switzerland.
Paris Photo L.A continues to grow here. You’re expecting 20,000 people this year. How are the exhibitor and collector bases different between the Paris and L.A.?
Bourgeois: Our Paris fair has a wide and faithful collector base and reported a record 60,000 visitors last year at the historic Grand Palais. Los Angeles also profits from this base but offers our guests a certain breath of air that distinguishes it from its Parisian counterpart. Located at Paramount Pictures, Paris Photo Los Angeles has been hailed as one of the most unique and enjoyable art fair experiences. Exhibitors present works in the mythic soundstages and site specific installations in the movie sets of the New York back lot. We’re happy to be supported by local galleries and longtime exhibitors, as well as museum and collections that plan their exhibition calendars based on our fair dates and Hollywood institutions such as United Talent Agency with whom we have partnered this year for the opening. Last year's VIP collectors included celebrities Jodie Foster, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Demi Moore.
Tell us about the new Introducing! Young California Photographer Award. What were you searching for in the six students you chose as finalists?
Wiesner: Introducing! Young California Photographer Award was developed in partnership with our official partner J.P. Morgan Private Bank and distinguishes the photographic work of one student currently enrolled in an MFA program in a California art school. The award is a reflection of the focus of the year's edition: emerging talent. The six finalists have been selected based on several criteria. ... Criteria included aesthetic and technical approaches, project construction and the diversification of subjects to include propositions focusing on social, gender and conceptual issues.
Paris Photo Los Angeles, noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Paramount Pictures, 5555 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. $20-$28 daily, $46 weekend pass.
Q&A with Photo Independent director Davies:
What was the impetus to start an artist-focused fair last year and why in L.A.? Was it in response to a void you saw?
I’ve always had a love of photography as an art form and have been fortunate to engage with some of the most inspiring artists of our times. With the existing gallery and art fairs, it seemed like extremely talented photographers, many independent, were being under-represented. With Photo Independent, I wanted to create a front-and-center showcase for photographers both with and without gallery representation. I saw a deep hole and I wanted to fill it. Our niche, as you call it, is an exciting model, and it’s unique.
Why in Los Angeles? This is the land of Hollywood, the birthplace of epic image-making and one of the largest photography hubs in the world.
How did you select the exhibitors and how competitive was it?
We had a jury of four curators look over the entries to decide on the basis of their submissions which artists were doing interesting contemporary work, and then we thought about how they would all fit together as a gestalt. We want to have museum-quality work, professionally finished, and we favored bold, dramatic and unique types of work. The selection process was intense and fairly selective.
What are some standouts?
The following are just a few. … I love Roberts Stivers, who uses darkroom techniques to create beautifully mysterious and captivating images. I like Laurent Maes, a photographer from Belgium, whose photos detail beautiful architecture of huge ships from overhead. I like Richard Slechta’s big minimalist pieces that are hybrids of painting and photography -- each work is unique. And I also like Mei Xian Qiu’s mythopoetic mise-en-scenes that she directs with a surreal cast of sexy, gender-ambiguous Jungian characters.
Why Raleigh Studios? Is it just about the proximity to Paris Photo L.A., or is there site-specific significance?
Raleigh mixes old-time Hollywood glamour with the technical expertise and equipment of a working film lot. They’ve been very supportive to us. I would be disingenuous not to admit that being right across the street from another world-class photography fair (and all the internationals that walk across Melrose Avenue to see our artists) is good luck too, don’t you think? We had many collectors and dealers walk across Melrose Avenue to see what our fair had to offer. This year we are having shuttle buses taking attendees back and forth between both fairs.
Tell us about the two micro-fairs -- PhotoBook Independent and Photo Contemporary – that you’re launching this year as part of Photo Independent.
Photo books are big at the moment, and I have a huge passion for them as well. Photo books are seen as collectibles in the art world these days, and I felt it was a natural extension to Photo Independent. Photo books are a unique way of curating a photographer’s body of work and owning a physical representation of the work, a more accessible option to collecting.
After last year’s Photo Independent, we started receiving inquiries from galleries about participating at this year’s fair, as they saw the energy our fair had and wanted to be a part of it, so we decided to create a new section called Photo Contemporary, to differentiate from independent photographers.
Do you think fine art photography fairs are on the rise in the U.S.?
Yes, it seems that way. Photography is now the new fine art kid on the block and everybody wants some. These days photography is eagerly sought after, at all the fine art contemporary fairs all over the world. A list published by Fotografia found 41 contemporary art fairs in the U.S. that welcome photographic art, which was not the case a few years ago.
Los Angeles is mad-passionate for art, and we have many fairs, although not as many as in New York and Miami. We seem to be at a photographic epicenter here. In addition to all the art fairs, we have four important fairs devoted exclusively to photography: Photo L.A., Classic Photo, Paris Photo Los Angeles and, of course, Photo Independent. Photography is the most incendiary art form of our modern civilization. The birth of a fresh, contemporary art and era has arrived — and it’s definitely photographic!
Photo Independent, premiere party and preview 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, show 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Raleigh Studios, 5300 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, $15 one day, $25 weekend.